Making the Move: Coping with sibling conflicts about parental care

by Matt Del Vecchio

A transition to a senior residence can be difficult, emotional, and overwhelming for the entire family. Add in differences of opinion among siblings and decisions can become paralyzing.

I have seen how sibling disagreements resulted in ill-advised and inappropriate decisions. Whom does this affect the most? It’s their parents, the very people they are trying to help. Sad, isn’t it?

It’s no secret that as our parents age they may rely on family for more support. When we were young, it’s likely we didn’t always agree with our siblings on simple matters, so dealing with the care of a parent can become very challenging.

As adults we each develop opinions on the way we want to age. It’s not always going to be the same as that of our siblings. This can easily rekindle rivalries among family members. Here are a few solutions for siblings trying to address what’s best for their parents.

Call a family meeting

Get the entire family to sit together to discuss feelings they’ve been having or issues that have occurred. Check the egos at the door! Open, honest and respectful communication is key. Your siblings may not be aware of the health-care system procedures or any changes that may be happening with your parents. Consider existing and future care requirements in any decision. Be realistic and transparent.

Share responsibilities

Typically, there is one sibling who is the primary caregiver. This person tends to make the majority of the decisions. The risk is that other siblings may feel left out and more importantly, the burden of primary caregiver status can become stressful and overwhelming. This is when mistakes could be made. Try to ease the workload by delegating tasks to other siblings even for those who live out of town. This includes caregiving roles, financial responsibilities, appointments, meals and ultimately the decision regarding any transition to an appropriate senior residence.

Avoid the “Hit and run”

A common source of frustration for the primary caregiver is the sibling who lives out of town or the busy professional who cannot devote as much time to their parents’ situation. They want what’s best for mom and dad but sometimes they come with their guns blazing and start telling everyone what to do. And then they leave! Their intentions may be genuine but in most cases, it’s disruptive and rarely leads to a solution.

Seek professional help

If there are still struggles and disagreements among your siblings, it may be worth reaching out for expert help. Doctors, social workers, financial planners, transition specialists, professional mediators and family counsellors are all good options.

These professionals can bring an objective point of view to the discussion. They can help guide conversations, keep it civil and bring family members together again.

Try to get all siblings to ask the question “What is ultimately best for our parent, today and tomorrow?”

Matt Del Vecchio is the owner of Lianas Services Senior Transition Support and host of “Life Unrehearsed” which can be heard on CJAD800 every Sunday at 4pm.

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